Everyone I’ve talked to has said that Paris is magical and wonderful and one of their favorite places to visit. Please don’t hate me or think I’m crazy, but I didn’t really like Paris. It was dirty and smelly – worse than I’m used to in SF. The first day I was ready to leave and didn’t want to be there. But, by the third day, I started to warm up to it a bit. Ironically, some of my favorite experiences during the trip were in Paris (as you’ll see), but something about the city put me off. I’ll go back and try again though.
Saturday morning we took another high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris. Our Airbnb was very close to the train station, which was convenient for traveling. It had a very cute style and adorable bright yellow counters. The listing said that it was on the 6th floor without an elevator, which we didn’t think would be a problem when booking it. We didn’t take into account our suitcases or the heat or the fact that we’d already been walking miles each day. Oof.
Our first stop – pizza! I fully admit that I’m obsessed with pizza, and Little Nonna did not disappoint. The best pizza we’ve ever had was in Rome, and this place is a close competitor. The crust was perfect and the pizza was flavorful. I would most definitely go back.
The heat had come back full force. I was struggling. I don’t do well with humidity to begin with, and the smell of the city was making me feel sick. We tried to stick to the shade and finally made it to Helmut Newcake bakery, a 100% gluten-free bakery. After more pastry debates, we settled on a lemon tart, croissant, and an elephant ear. We saved them all for later though, since we were too hot to eat anything.
The next surprise William had planned was a cheese tasting. I was a little nervous about that since I usually have a hard time with dairy, but I do love cheese so I was quite excited to experience that in Paris. They suggested that we bring our own gluten-free bread to enjoy during it, so we stopped off at Chambelland on the way – another gluten-free bakery that specializes more in bread. Just look at those glorious piles of bread!
Cheese, what a wonderful thing. Our tasting was informative, entertaining and incredibly tasty. Our host, Ashley, walked us through six different cheeses and even had different drinks to try with them as well. I loved everything, and the bread that we brought was a perfect accompaniment.
When we got back to our Airbnb that evening, we enjoyed the lemon tart from Helmut Newcake for dessert. I’m a huge lemon fan and it was perfect.
We started the day off with the croissant and elephant ear. My family used to have elephant ears every Christmas morning. That had to stop once I went gluten free, so this was a treat to have. We supplemented our pastries with breakfast at Cafe Mareva. We were excited to try their sweet potato waffles, but I was not impressed.
The buildings throughout Paris are absolutely lovely. They all have a very classy style with adorable little balconies and beautiful windows. The sprinkles of greenery and flowers peeking out of some of the balconies adds to the ambiance. The only downside is that they are all the same. That was something that I really appreciated about London – there was so much variety everywhere. Paris is beautiful, but it does create visual fatigue rather quickly.
We kept walking and ended up at the Eiffel Tower. It was my first time seeing it, and… it looked just like every photo I’d ever seen. We enjoyed a nice walk along the river and then made our way up towards our lunch destination.
The fourth surprise William planned was a paper marbling class. How cool is that?! My husband is the best at planning surprises. It was a private class for the two of us at our instructor’s studio. He was talented and fun and started off by showing us examples of his work to explain different techniques in paper marbling. We found out that he does a lot of work for the museums and most of his work goes to book restorations.
He then started demonstrating different techniques and suddenly we were making marbled paper! It’s a simple concept of splattering pigments on a liquid and then laying paper on top for the pigments to transfer. It gets interesting as you experiment with combining colors and using tools to swirl the pigments into different patterns.
It was such a fun experience. And extra fun getting to create something with William, since I’m usually the only one ever dabbling with creative things. I loved that we got to take all the paper home with us too. We’re thinking of framing some of it to decorate our home and have a lasting memory of our trip.
When the paper was dry, we went to dinner at Le LouLou. The style of this place was so adorable. They had super fun pendants and plants everywhere. We ordered a ribeye and steak tartar. The tartar was quite good, the steak was terrible.
Wandering around after dinner was one of my favorite moments in the city. This little section of lovely side streets is what I envisioned Paris to be like. It was magical. The atmosphere of these little streets was wonderful – string lights dangling above tables and chairs, glass-enclosed streets with restaurants that have been in business for over 300 years, cobblestone streets with old lamps and cute shops speckled throughout. It was lovely.
Our last destination for the evening was Grom. We discovered Grom while in Italy last time and fell in love, so we simply had to go again. I was still a little nervous about the dairy, but that didn’t stop me from eating a cone of coffee gelato. It was totally worth it, especially because I didn’t get sick. After eating a few pizzas and pastries, doing a cheese tasting, and having gelato without a problem, I was beginning to wonder what was different about European dairy. The only conclusion that I’ve been able to come up with so far is that most of what I was eating was raw cheese, whereas in the US, everything is pasteurized. I tested this when we got back and bought some raw milk cheese from our local Whole Foods and didn’t get sick. I imagine that there are other differences between Europe and the States, but this was a huge discovery for me!
The fifth and final surprise was a private baking class where we learned how to make macarons and madeleine cookies. What a treat! I had never attempted macarons before since I’ve heard how difficult they can be. While it’s a simple recipe, the process is tricky. I’m so thankful my first experience was with an instructor. We made chocolate macarons with a chocolate ganache for the filling. We started off with the ganache and then moved on to the meringue while that was cooling. I loved learning a new and easy way to make ganache, and I became much more comfortable and confident with making meringue. We then carefully combined the meringue with our flour/sugar mixture and went through the folding process called macaronage. That’s the confusing part since you want it to be just the right texture. The final step was piping the batter, which was surprisingly easy once we learned the technique.
We moved on to make the madeleines while the macarons were baking and cooling. They’re basically just butter, flour, sugar and more butter. We made them with almond flour and they were fantastic.
Our teacher was wonderful, but made everything seem so easy. When we got back I tried making macarons on my own and failed miserably. I was feeling stubborn though and tried a second time and got much closer. It was such a fun experience. I highly recommend taking a cooking/baking class whenever you travel.
We ran into our friend Tom, which was a fantastic surprise. It’s always fun to bump into someone you know, but when you’re traveling in a different country and run into a friend, it’s extra special. We had a great lunch together at a deli called Bears and Raccoons.
While walking after lunch, we started to smell chocolate and followed our noses. We ended up finding a chocolate factory tucked away behind some buildings. It was a classy little place called Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse with beautiful truffles and lots of single origin chocolate bars. The whole space was elegant with a ceiling of windows and their industrial, yet classy display cases. We of course bought chocolate bars.
Tom and William wanted boba, so we found quite literally a hole in the wall place, but the tea was good. We continued on for a bit more discovering parks, old buildings, more street art and interesting side streets before Tom broke off to continue on his way.
We stopped off for one more treat at a place called Yummy and Guiltfree. It was definitely yummy, but I’m next to positive it was not guilt free. They sell gluten-free waffles on a popsicle stick with different flavors piped into the waffle nooks. We got cheesecake and it was divine!
We walked around the island for a little bit before dinner. Notre Dame was mostly covered and blocked off for repairs after the recent fire so we couldn’t see much.
Our final stop was dinner at L’Annexe. This was hands down our best dinner of the trip. It was a tiny little place, but their food was amazing and they knew exactly how to accommodate allergies. The staff were so friendly and the food… I really can’t tell you enough, it was amazing. We had salmon and a risotto with falafel. They were both cooked perfectly and so flavorful.
That dinner was a fantastic note to leave Paris on. We took the train back to London the following morning, and enjoyed the remainder of the day there before catching our flight home.